February 9, 2023


London: British officials and space scientists said they were disappointed but not deterred after the first attempt to launch satellites from the UK failed.

US-based Virgin Orbit attempted its first international launch on Monday night, using a modified jumbo jet to carry one of its rockets from Cornwall, south-west England, over the Atlantic Ocean.

Spectators watch on a giant screen at Cornwall Newquay Airport as the LauncherOne rocket is launched from Cosmic Girl, in Newquay, UK. Credit:Getty

The plane launched the rocket, which carried nine small satellites for a mix of civilian and domestic uses. But about two hours after the plane took off, the company reported “an anomaly that has prevented us from reaching orbit.”

The aircraft, flown by a Royal Air Force pilot, returned to Cornwall. The rocket and satellites were destroyed.

“We feel really bad, to be honest I’m not going to lie,” Melissa Thorpe, director of Spaceport Cornwall, said Tuesday.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve been hit, it’s definitely the biggest, but I feel good and we’ll get up and go again,” he said.

Cosmic Girl, the 747 aircraft carrying the LauncherOne rocket under its left wing, takes off from Cornwall airport.

Cosmic Girl, the 747 aircraft carrying the LauncherOne rocket under its left wing, takes off from Cornwall Airport.Credit:Getty

Virgin Orbit, which was founded by British transport and telecommunications magnate Richard Branson, has previously completed four similar launches from California.

Hundreds of people gathered for the launch in Cornwall cheered as a refurbished Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 aircraft, named Cosmic Girl, took off on Monday night.

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